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S.A. Mitchell

Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware & Maryland (1863)

Origins of the business

For over fifty years, Samuel Augustus Mitchell, alongside his son and successor were some of the most prominent publishers of maps and atlases in the United States. S.A. Mitchell Sr. found the quality of early geography text books to be lacking, and determined that he would write and publish better works. This decision led him to relocate to Philadelphia in 1829 or 1830, which was then the center of commercial publishing in America.

Mitchell’s first cartographic work was the re-issue of Anthony Finley’s New American Atlas in 1831. While the map content in Mitchell’s edition is the same as Finley’s, each map had been significantly improved, primarily with the addition of new towns and roads, especially in the south and west. Mitchell continued to work with the publication of the New American Atlas; Mitchell began issuing the individual maps in pocket map format, which would become one of Mitchell's most popular and enduring works.


Mitchell Plan of Philadelphia, PA & Camden, NJ (1879)

A Path to Riches

Mitchell was neither a cartographer nor an engraver. His primary function was as the editor and business manager of his publishing company. Beginning in 1839, Mitchell also began publication of his school atlas. This work was issued by Mitchell and his successors from 1839 to 1886. He changed the copperplates to lithography, utilizing Peter S. Duval in Philadelphia to produce the stones. Mitchell re-issued the atlas at least annually until 1850.

In 1860, Mitchell’s son, Samuel Augustus Mitchell Jr. began issuing Mitchell’s New General Atlas. While his father had continued to issue wall maps and other works,  Samuel Augustus Mitchell Jr. inherited the Mitchell Company from his father that same year. For over thirty years, the company had specialized in the production of school atlases and wall maps of America. In 1860, Samuel Jr. released the New General Atlas, which had been compiled in house and replaced a previous atlas by Tanner.  The elder Mitchell died in 1868. The New General Atlas was issued by SA Mitchell Jr. until 1887 and continued the business until the 1890s.

Mitchell Map of North America (1847)

Passing the Torch

At its height, the Mitchell Company employed 250 people and sold 400,000 publications annually. Their most notable contributions to map printing were the floral borders to add elegance to each map & the pioneering of steel-plate engravings being one of the earliest uses of the technique in map publishing in America, utilizing nearby Trenton NJ's major export of steel and was the first company to publish a steel-plate atlas.


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